Republicans fume over Schumer hardball strategy


Republicans are bristling over Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) hardball strategy to try to force them to finalize a bipartisan infrastructure deal in a matter of days.

Republican negotiators and members of leadership believe Schumer is trying to jam them and warn that they won’t vote to start debate Wednesday even on a shell bill that the Democratic leader is intending to use as a vehicle for the bipartisan deal once it’s finalized.

“It’s a bad idea if the bill’s not ready. ... Our guys aren’t going to vote for a bill they haven’t seen,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican.

Schumer announced on the Senate floor Thursday that he will force a key test vote on Wednesday where he will need at least 60 votes to advance the shell legislation, meaning the support of 10 Republicans if every Democrat also goes along with the strategy. If Republicans agree to start debate, they could then substitute in the bipartisan text when it’s done.

“The bottom line is there’s plenty of time to get this done. It’s almost a week, and we should get it done,” Schumer said as he left the Capitol for the week, asked about the GOP pushback. 

But Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, predicted that there could be 10 Republican senators or more who would vote to advance the bipartisan bill, “but you’ve got to see what the bill looks like.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, predicted that there could be 10 Republican senators or more who would vote to advance the bipartisan bill, “but you’ve got to see what the bill looks like.”

And several of his most likely “yes” votes, the Republicans helping negotiate the bipartisan bill, were frustrated by Schumer’s strategy, which his office acknowledged was a hardball move aimed at providing the bipartisan group with a deadline to finalize their bill and prevent talks from dragging on.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) characterized Schumer as trying to “jam the bill.”

“We’re still working very hard. We’re making good progress, and he ought to respect that,” Collins said of Schumer.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who has helped spearhead the bipartisan negotiations, warned that his group wouldn’t be pushed into meeting the deadline. “We’re not going to rush this,” he said.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), another member of the group, said that there were still several issues that need to be resolved.

“I think there’s a lot of drafting that has to be done, and there are still a number of outstanding issues that have to be resolved," Romney said. “I would think it would be a dereliction of duty to vote for a bill that hasn’t been drafted yet.”

The group, which now consists of 22 members, announced late last month that they had reached a deal on a framework for a bill that would cost $1.2 trillion over eight years.

Since then, they have been working behind the scenes to try to flesh out the legislation.

They’ve got an informal deadline to have their remaining issues resolved by the end of Thursday, something some members have suggested is more of a goal as they still try to iron out how to pay for bill’s spending.

But even if they meet that deadline, they still need to finish drafting text and get a score from the Congressional Budget Office.

“You can’t just say, 'OK, deadline,’” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), noting there was no guarantee that they could get agency feedback in time.

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